12 Steps to A Kinder, Gentler World When Things Return to Normal

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Have you too been thinking about the state of the world, and how it just seems to be getting crazier and increasingly more violent? For me, the situation was exacerbated by the daily deluge of news related to the horrific unfitness of the reality TV star that is the current President of the United States. I worried about climate change and fretted about what we as individuals could do to support the important clarion call of Greta Thunberg and other climate activists. There seemed to be one crisis after another, leaving me discouraged and even panicked.

And all this was before the coronavirus hit, and the world profoundly changed.

I can think of one other time in my life when I felt the world had changed, and that was after 9/11. I knew that morning when those planes struck the World Trade Center, that this event would reshape society and the world as I knew it would never be the same. The financial crisis of 2008 altered the lives of many in permanent ways. The war in Syria has completely upended the lives of millions, including tens of thousands of refugees resettled in dozens of countries around the world. My father certainly felt this way on September 1, 1939 — the day Germany invaded Poland and his life at the age of 18 in Warsaw was dramatically altered. Dreams of studying chemistry at university transformed into internment at a notorious POW Camp, and then the forced death march in the middle of winter across hundreds of kilometres.

Despite the difficult situation we are in due to the coronavirus pandemic, times of social distancing and even lockdown, I see and hear about moments of human goodness, compassion, generosity of spirit and action. People reaching out to offer help; people finding ways to socialize “distantly”; young people offering to shop for older people; businesses delivering for free; teachers tying themselves in knots to continue to provide quality education; grandmothers reading fairy tales to their grandchildren on FaceTime; friends having beers together on Skype; quarantined Italians serenading one another from their balconies; and grave concern for all those whose health and jobs are at risk. And then there are the health care professionals and others working in essential services, who are putting their lives on the line for the rest of us every day.

Life will eventually once again feel more normal — even if it will be a new normal. When we arrive at this point, we must remember the impact of the small individual gestures that got us through the current crisis. To that end, I offer 12 simple ideas we can incorporate into our lives to create a kinder, gentler world.

1. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated yourself. Be courteous and kind to each person. There is no unimportant act of kindness and every gesture of kindness has a ripple effect.

2. Stand up when greeting someone. Use people’s names when addressing them.

3. Before you react to a media story, consider that all news is biased and that every story has at least two perspectives. Same applies to someone’s personal story.

4. Give to people on the street asking for money. Give, and don’t judge or wonder what they will do with your toonie. Giving to someone begging is always right.

5. Hug often. It is the purest form of communication that allows the other person to know that they matter.

6. Volunteer or support a cause generously.

7. No one makes it alone. Express gratitude to the people who have helped you along the way.

8. Call your parent or a friend for no reason at all, but just to say hello and check in.

9. Call or send a sympathy note to anyone who has lost a loved one.

10. Send a thank-you note promptly. It does not matter if it is handwritten or sent by text.

11. Forgive.

12. Never give up on anybody — miracles can happen.

The coronavirus pandemic will cause tremendous pain and human suffering. But it shall pass and I hope when it does it will cause us to reconsider everything — who we are, what we value, what we collectively share and value — and perhaps rediscover better versions of ourselves. Here’s to a kinder, gentler world once things return to normal.